By Ashwin Hemmathagama – Our Lobby Correspondent
The bill extending the detention of persons arrested without a warrant for 48 hours was passed yesterday at the Parliament with a majority of 77 votes. Despite 33 members voting against this controversial legislation, which could be used to “eliminate political rivals and suppress possible public uprising,” 110 MPs mainly representing the ruling party voted approving the Code of Criminal Procedure (Special Provisions) Bill, that amends certain sections of the Criminal Procedure Code Act No. 15 of 1979.
|A demonstrator shouts slogans during a rally to protest against what they say is a suppressive amendment to the criminal law in Colombo January 22, 2013. Parliament will enact new legislation next Tuesday to enable the police detain a person who has been arrested without a warrant for 48 hours before producing him or her before a magistrate instead of the normal 24 hours, according to the local media. The Code of Criminal Procedure (Special Provisions) that provides for such a move was presented to Parliament on October 11 last year. It is now listed in the parliament order book to be taken up for debate and approval on Tuesday. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte
The amendment will facilitate the conduct of investigations by the Police, for dispensing with the conduct of non-summary inquiry in certain cases, provide for the taking of dispositions of witness for the prosecution, and make provisions for matters connected therewith, according to Minister of Environment Anura Priyadharshana Yapa who moved the bill that came into place retrospectively commencing from 31 May 2009.
“This is a timely change. Organised crime is increasing and the 48 hours will provide additional time and authority required by the Police to solve them. Non-summary inquiry will be limited to 90 days or allow indictment at high courts, rather dragging for years and years until the witnesses forget their testaments,” said Yapa.
“Arrest and detention in police custody will be included in Section 102 of the Penal Code – abetment of an offence set out in the schedule if the act is committed, Section 113B of the Penal Code – conspiracy for the abetment or commission of any offence set out in the schedule, Section 296 of the Penal Code – murder, Section 297 of the Penal Code – culpable homicide not amounting to murder, Section 300 of the Penal Code – attempt to commit murder, Section 355 of the Penal Code – kidnapping or abduction to commit murder, Section 356 of the Penal Code – kidnapping or abduction with intent to wrongfully confine a person,
“Section 358 of the Penal Code – kidnapping or abduction with intent to wrongfully subject person to grievous hurt, Section 359 of the Penal Code – concealing or keeping in confinement a kidnapped person, Section 364 of the Penal Code – rape, Section 371 of the Penal Code – theft, preparation having being made to cause death, Section 383 of the Penal Code – robbery with attempt to cause death or grievous hurt, Section 384 of the Penal Code – attempt to commit robbery when armed with deadly weapon, Section 490 of the Penal Code – attempt to commit any of the above offences, and an offence committed with the use of explosive, an offensive weapon, or a gun as defined in the Explosive Act and Offensive Weapons Act No. 18 of 1966, and firearms ordinance.”
Member of Parliament – United National Party and Chief Opposition Whip in Parliament John Amaratunga who questioned Rule of Law, natural justice, and the independence of Judiciary started the debate.
“We will vote against this bill. The Police is capable but under political influence will prevail from curbing crime. They solved the theft that took place at the SriLankan Chairman’s house within 24 hours, locating the missing wristwatch and apprehended the thief. Today, it is the laws of the jungles that prevail in Sri Lanka. What is the use of the acts and laws enacted here, if not practiced or enforced? Police would have been independent if the 17th Amendment was effective, rather dancing to the political tunes.
“Law in Sri Lanka is practiced according to individual likening. Where is the independence of Judiciary? What you did to Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake is pathetic. The Minister of Justice won’t dare to open his mouth as he is scared of repercussions. She still identifies herself as the Chief Justice still in office. How can this be? You have removed her protection and she is concerned about her security. Is there a plan to kill her or abduct her?” said MP Amaratunga.
Member of Parliament (TNA) M.A. Sumanthiran opposing the amendment said: “This bill was originally enacted for a period of two years and extended by ministers at certain occasions. It lapsed without being extended in this house and the applicability came to an end. This bill seeks to validate even acts done during a period that the act lapsed. This is very serious issue. It raises a serious issue of retrospective effect. We oppose this bill as it seeks to extend the period of detention in police custody.
“This should not be mixed up with the limitation to detain at a police station and the ability to solve the crime or to conduct investigations. If it is a non bail-able offence, the accused can be detained for 15 days with the approval from a magistrate. This is the period the law expects the police to conduct investigations. The first 24 hours is to record statements and attend to incidental issues. Extending it to 48 hours does not make sense. This can only lead to abuse. Our reports are full of such incidences where police officers found guilty of torture. There is no real reason to bring in this amendment.”